Donations for Student-Focused Programming Hit Low: A call to Action

Weston’s unique student programming funding committee, the Weston Education Enrichment Fund Committee or WEEFC, is suffering an all-time low in donations, and as a result, may have to cut back the number of proposals it can fund this year. With 18 days left in the February fundraiser (ending March 15), only 100 families have given at any level–that is only 8% of Weston Public Schools families. This year, more than any other, Weston’s students need the support of extra programming, new activities and engaging projects, many of which are created through WEEFC.

PTO Science and Math Council and WEEFC supported this program with Professor Zarin Machanda, Director of Long-term Research at the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, to speak to first graders about chimpanzee moms and babies, 2018.

Some parents may feel that they have already given. The special air purifier donation drive in the fall raised $95,000 to buy air purifiers for classrooms. It was a spectacular call to action which was met with willingness and alacrity. It is what allowed students and teachers to get back into the classrooms, at first in a hybrid model and now heading towards a fuller in-person model (for those not in remote learning academy).

WEEFC is currently operating at a significant deficit, largely because it also contributed $37,000 to the air purifier fund. I am not authorized to say the exact number that WEEFC is in the hole, but it’s a lot. It would be less if every single family donated something, anything, to WEEFC. The key here is everyone participating in community-focused funding–not counting on a few families to carry the load.

It costs about $100/student for the extra programming WEEFC supports. If you can afford that, give that. Or give $35/student to commemorate every year of WEEFC. Or challenge your kids to raise the money. Why not? My kid charged his grandfather $35 for a painting of a hatchet–long story. Happy ending.

It is unclear if the huge drop in donations has to do with family frustration about reduced school hours or remote schooling. If so, the frustration is showing up in the wrong place and directly affecting the students. With renewed financial backing, WEEFC would like to turn attention to enrichment grants that bolster curriculum in all five Weston Public Schools (including RLA). To date, WEEFC has approved 15 enrichment grants including at least one grant in each of these learning categories: Science, Social Studies, Technology, Creative Arts, Visual Arts, and Performing Arts. Over the next two weeks, the Weston Owl will take a closer look at some of these grants and what they mean for the students.

Epic. Kwame Alexander, 2018.

On a personal note (this is a blog, folks, not the New York Times), since moving here in 2014 when my kids were in second grade, I have been amazed, impressed and gratified by the extra programming that they have received. It took me a while to realize it wasn’t “free” with the property tax bill. It’s WEEFC. Because of WEEFC, my son who hates to read, “met” Kwame Alexander, and spellbound, read two books in a week. Because of WEEFC, my other son learned the connections between science (thank you Curriculum Leader Susan Erickson), art (thank you retired teacher Colleen Lucas) and poetry (thank you WEEFC-funded poet Lyn Hoopes). I challenge you to think about what your kids have received from WEEFC programming. It’s not nothing.

As of now, WEEFC has tabled some very cool and timely grants, such as a COVID-related science one at the high school while waiting for funding / approval. It would be devastating to have to tell the science department “no” and for the sudents to miss out on the opportunity.

I am not on WEEFC and I have only one bias to disclose: I firmly believe that WEEFC programming is what makes Weston stand out. If you’re angry about how school has gone this year, and lunches or no lunches or masks or whatever, I exhort you to swallow it, and think about students for the rest of this year. Let them find the silver lining through WEEFC programming.

For more information and some wonderful photos of students learning through WEEFC grants, please take a look at this recent article by Nancy Varela in the Weston Town Crier about the creation of WEEFC.

And yeah, I’ve given up all objectiveness–it’s time to light up the donation links. Do it for the kids. Encourage your friends to do the same.

1. Venmo (@WEEFC-Weston)

2. Online at westonschools.org/education-enrichment-fund-committee-weefc

3. Check payable to Town of Weston — WEEFC, mailed to WEEFC, 89 Wellesley St., Weston, MA 02493

Author Giles Laroche came to Country and Woodland schools to read about and make Communities.
November 2015 (and for 28 years)

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